The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Couche Question

Eli's picture
Eli

Couche Question

I proofed two batards last night in the refrigerator on a couche (homemade, I purchased duck cloth and hemmed the edges, foured it and keep it in a plastic bag with two cups of flour. I roll it around every now and then to keep it floured. Anyway, for the first time the loaves stuck to it like super glu. I managed to take a razor and gently peel them off. I will post pix later. I then took the razor and gently scraped off the stuck dough. Question (hours later) should I shake it out and then wash and try to re-flour or just reflour and leave it alone.

Thanks,

Eli

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture
GrapevineTXolda...

Eli, I purchased a heavy linen cloth from a local fabric store, using a small bottle of corn oil and a heavy dusting of flour, I prepped it and used it until I could no longer resist.  I finally broke down and purchased the fabric item from KA flour.  It cost me much more than my bargain find.  I'm happy with it though.  It's smaller than my original, but suites me fine. 

Did you oil your cloth before dusting it with flour?  Also, what type of flour did you dust it with?  I've heard that rice or semolina is the way to go, but I'm sure this is probably a 'preference' thing. 

Eli, I washed my old cloth, but never felt confident that I got it clean enough....the oil...hence the reason for me finally purchasing the new one.  Oh, and I did NOT oil my new one.  It has a heavy dusting of rice flour and is holding up beautifully.

Eli's picture
Eli

I just recently moved from Dallas proper. My how I miss it! I did not oil mine. My mother has a flour sack cloth, which she has had for twenty years, covered in flour kept in my great-great grandmothers bread bowl. It never sticks but it has been washed a couple of times over the twenty years. Hmmmm. I cannot find rice flour around here and I like immediate gratification in the store. I hate waiting on mail order but I may have no choice.

Thanks GrapevineTX and keep Texas together until I make it back.

Eli

LindyD's picture
LindyD

For what it's worth, I picked up a half a yard of canvas and have been using it as a couche. No oil, and I'm uncertain why you would do that anyway (ignorance is bliss?).

Because I had read that rice flour was better versus regular flour and had received a grain mill attachment for my KA as a birthday gift, I ground rice and use that to dust the cloth. Doesn't get sticky but I guess I should hem the edges before too long.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Bread fermented in the refrigerator on a couche is very prone to sticking.  I always use about 1 part rice flour to 3 parts white flour, and if I proof the dough in the fridge, I give it a thicker dusting.  I've found it matters less what the material is, within reason, so long as rice flour is used in the dusting.  I currently am using painter's canvases, cut up to the right size.

With your cloth, scrape off the flour, leave it to air-dry and it'll be ready to go again!

SOL

holds99's picture
holds99

Be careful with oil on a couche.  At room temp. oil will eventually go rancid and could contaminate your couche and loaves.  There's no mistaking the smell of rancid oil.  I do what Staff of Life suggests, let it dry completely, then scrape off (or use a stiff brush) to remove the excess flour and any particles of stuck dough, take it outside and give it a shake then store it in the open in folds on a sheet pan...NOT in a plastic bag, because if stored in a plastic bag, and there's any moisture residue left in the couche, it may react with the residual flour on the cloth and cause mildew or mold. Also, as SOL suggests, the mixture of rice flour and white flour works very well to minimize sticking.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture
GrapevineTXolda...

That oil, that couche....

I claim being the ignorant party.  Hey, you'll do all sorts of things in the beginning of the foray of all things, flour.  Everything sounds interesting, don't 'cha think?  Well, how do we learn unless we try?  Okay, let's just say I was reading everything I could get my hands upon and I was trying all sorts of experiments.  I blame it all on Peter Reinhart.  Yeah, it's his fault.  His enthusiasm bit me and I was off to claim a victory.  I knew I was invincible.  I mean, that's what happens when you learn from a MASTER!

Lol.  Okay, I am almost seven months older now, and I did confess that I didn't oil the prized fabric I purchased through KA.  But I do have to confess to another ignorant item and one that I hope you'll educate me on:

When I'm not using my couche I store it in a plastic bag in the freezer.  Is this another sin?  Will I come to regret this too?  Oh heck, who am I kidding, I don't regret oiling that earlier item.  I'm of legal speed limit age and it's okay to play with oil and flour, in the backyard, with the neighbors wondering, "WHAT THE HECK?"

Please answer.  Anyone.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I need a twelve step program for all things floured.  I'm humbled.  I've finally found what I want to do when I grow up.  So it took FOREVER! 

Lol.  Thanks for allowing me to air my laundry in public.  Being humbled is good for the environment.  It's Texas, right Eli.  There's room to air it.  (WINK!)

holds99's picture
holds99

GrapevineTX,

As our EX PREZ always says: "I feel your pain", I just made a couple of sourdough boules that resemble tractor trailer tires...same texture and crust color.  Got to get that sourdough starter serously refreshed...soon!  Anyway, I freeze just about everything; flour, yeast, malt powder, vital gluten...my cat, Max, when he's giving me grief (just joking). Guess I just never thought of freezing the couche but it sounds good to me.  Speaking of blaming it on Reinhart, Come to think of it, I think Reinhart is where I got the idea for freezing the cat :-)

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Hey, I'm addicted to making bread and have no intentions of stopping. :)  I don't see anything wrong with storing it in the freezer, after it's fully clean and dried.  If it has moisture, when you go to use it the next time, you might be laying your loaves on a damp couche, which will make it harder to remove them when it's time to bake.  I personally just scrape them and let them hang on a rack (I have that stainless steel wire shelving which works nicely) until I use it next time.

SOL

MaryinHammondsport's picture
MaryinHammondsport

Doesn't leaving the floured couche or basket/banneton liner out unprotected run the risk of meal worms?

I've always just assumed that any flour left exposed to the air would become infested with meal worms in warm weather. I have always stored everything in plastic tubs, metal cannisters, glass jars, or in the freezer. I even store my flour shaker in a zipped-up plastic bag for this reason.

And if you haven't had mealworms, you don't want 'em. They appear as little whitish-gray moths that infest grain goods; another stage is the meal worms themselves crawling around in your flour -- flour-colored and about 1/4" to 3/8" long. The final indignity is the shells that they leave behind in the flour after they hatch and fly away -- about 1/4" brown shells that tell you someone's been tromping around in your cabinet and in your food.

Cleanliness doesn't seem to have much to do with it; they can fly in from outdoors anytime in warm weather and take up housekeeping in your pasta or flour if it's not protected. You can scrub the cabinet and more can fly in tomorrow and lay eggs; the only protection I know of is isolation of grain products. For that reason I would keep any flour-laden cloth items in a zip-up bag or in the freezer, one or the other.

Meal worms are HELL to get rid of--you just have to throw out all grain products, scrub down, and start over, in the process finding moth-proof containers for everything. And with grain prices rising, I suspect most people won't be too keen on throwing out all that food.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

If the flour or whatever is already infested before it comes into the kitchen, the bay leaves won't kill the beasties, but they sure as heck keep any unwanted flour eaters away.  We keep bay leaves in the pantry, on the shelves, in opened boxes of cereal, and in all the flour canisters and bins, and have had not problems.  I agree with you about the meal worms, they're horrible things.

MaryinHammondsport's picture
MaryinHammondsport

You know, I had heard that and forgotten about it. I don't have a problem anymore since I re-package everything automatically, but I can see where it would be helpful with the banneton liner and couche.

Thanks, Paddy. You always have good ideas.

And, by the way, I have been baking that Acadian Bread or Double Crusty you put me onto and I like it very much!

Mary

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I can't tell you how many times or places I've posted that recipe and everyone loves it.  It's my sister's favourite, and mine, especially toasted and slathered with butter!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It comes from long experience in not just tropical places.  I always shake products, boxes and bags, of food made with flour and grains.  I do it with the clear plastic window down and give it a little shake.  Then I hold up the package above my head and look to see if dust has collected on it.  If so, something is probably in there eating away and leaving a trail of dust and crumbs.  No need to bring that package home to infest my cupboard! 

Oh, and there are more unwelcomed guests.

Mini O